The Shinkansen ‘bullet’ train from Tokyo took us the 513 km to Kyoto in just over two hours. Let’s put that into perspective. The 696 km train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai took 16 hours! Another point to Japan.
Known for its shrines, temples and centuries old Geisha district, the former imperial capital of Japan is surrounded by mountains. We took a train to the Fushimi Inari shrine, famous for its orange torii gates that wind up the mountain.
We headed to the Gion district with the hope of spotting some real-life Geishas and within minutes we saw these lovely ladies walking down the street. They were happy to pose for photos and were greeted like movie stars as they passed by.
In the evening we went to our first Okonomiyaki restaurant. Each table has its own grill where you can cook the food to your liking. The Okonomiyaki itself is a savoury pancake with a variety of ingredients. We went for the shrimp with avocado sauce which was tasty but not something for the figure conscious! We also ordered some pork and leek noodles and a plate of marinated beef which came raw to be cooked at our table.
We visited a second Okonomiyaki restaurant in Hiroshima where we tried some great udon noodles.
We found Hiroshima, a city with such an unpleasant history, to be a vibrant, friendly and peaceful place. The peace memorial park and museum are a tragic reminder of the past, but a fantastic advocate for world peace.
Our last stop in Japan was Osaka. A fun city with a heavy American influence, not only in food but in fashion. Americamura is like a hipster’s paradise, lots of vintage shops and young guys that have been watching too many Pharrell videos. Dotonburi has lots of great over-the-top shop fronts with mechanical crabs and octopuses, surrounded by bright lights.
After a few beers we were tempted into a small takoyaki bar, had a few more beers, ate some delicious takoyaki whilst listening to the doors and chatting to the friendly staff. That’s one thing we’ll miss about Japan, everyone is so friendly and customer service is unrivalled anywhere else in the world. Kanpai to that!